View Media

Return of the rampant reds

A short blog about the renaissance of attacking football at Anfield. This will make up some of the back-dated copy on my website which will go live in early May.

Vist Nickos23's Profile

Return of the rampant reds

Over the past month, a remarkable renaissance has unfurled on Merseyside. After more than a decade away, the entertainers of Anfield have returned, and what a difference it has made to the already much vaunted English Premier League.

In their hammerings of Real’s Galaticos, Fergie’s untouchables, Villa’s wannabes and Allardyce’s bruisers, not to mention incredible goal-laden draws with Arsenal and Chelsea, Liverpool have left the Kop purring with anticipation and the neutral with their jaw on the floor.

The Premiership had been lacking an exciting, free-flowing Liverpool team for far too long. By my reckoning, it has been 13 years since football fans have witnessed a Liverpool team so devoted to attack and so willing to participate in a spectacle rather than simply a game of football. Not since the days of Collymore’s late winner that floored Kop idol Kevin Keegan’s brave Newcastle side in 1996 have the red army witnessed the sort of heart-messing madness that Benitez’s team are currently producing.

English football has missed a strong Liverpool team. Sure, since that FA Cup Final of 1996 when Cantona dissected three players to clinch United’s double, Liverpool have won two FA Cups, the UEFA Cup, the Champions League and two League Cups, but where have they been in the league? Rarely higher than fourth is the answer. And why? Because essentially they had become a cup team; a side capable of beating anyone on their day, but not everyone, everyday.

Under Evans and then Houllier, Liverpool occasionally excited, but consistently under-achieved. Signings often showed a lack of ambition when compared with Arsenal and United and with Michael Owen leading the line, the reds became direct, one-dimensional, and not an awful lot of fun to watch. What’s more, the legacy of a shaky defence including such footballing luminaries as Rigobert Song, Phil Babb and Djimi Traore was only finally put to bed when the steely partnership of Hyypia and Carragher turned Liverpool into a solid defensive unit.

This transformation was, of course, largely down to the appointment of Rafael Benitez, who was well known for his masterclass in containing and counter-attacking that brought an unlikely La Liga and UEFA Cup double to ‘little’ Valencia.

But it came at a cost. Benitez’s disciplined side made a mockery of the European formbook, but continued to be cut adrift from the top in the Premier League, leaving the one trophy the Kopites craved as a distant dream. However, after four and a half years of stalemates and tedious 1-0 wins, we are at last witnessing what Liverpool were capable of all along.

What no doubt began purely as a ploy to surprise Juande Ramos and murder Madrid has suddenly become ‘the Liverpool way’. No more slow and patient build up, no more cautious opening twenty minutes. Benitez has given this Liverpool side a licence to attack, and they are loving it. Gerrard and Torres constantly land on the ball in threatening areas, Kuyt and Riera consistently reach the byline and even the likes of Arbeloa and Dossena frequently pop up in the box. Most importantly though, the gung ho approach has worked.

Liverpool probably won’t win the title this season, and as many pundits have pointed out, the reason will be their failure to beat the division’s lesser sides such as Hull and Stoke. With this new found urgency and a fit and firing world’s best centre forward in Fernando Torres though, a replay of those fixtures would no doubt end up in a right royal hammering.

The buzz is back on Merseyside, with Liverpool finally proving that they know what it takes to avoid the 0-0 draws that have jeopardised this and several other campaigns. But with great adventure, comes great risk, and Rafa will be acutely aware of the defensive failings that have recently accompanied his attack, attack, attack policy. The four goals at Chelsea can largely be forgiven, as Liverpool had to chase the game from the off, but the three conceded in the first leg of that Champions League tie, and the four netted by Arsenal’s Russian genius Arshavin at Anfield will be a genuine cause for concern.

In Torres, Gerrard and the ever-improving duo of Benayoun and Kuyt, the reds fans have the pacey, exciting attack they have longed for. But Benitez’s next, and biggest challenge, is to work out how to maintain this thrill ride, while cutting out the major malfunctions in defence. If the master tactician can do it, then you cannot help but feel that the Premier League title is finally well within his grasp.


There are no comments for this entry yet.

Leave a Comment:

You must be a member to leave a comment. Login or Sign Up